StackOverfow: PLEASE fix your search engine

StackOverflow.com has long had one of the worst search-engines I’ve ever seen. It’s clearly a simple thing hacked together. It generally doesn’t work, and most of the people I know use google isntead, and rely upon Google to collage all the stackoverflow results together.

Occasionally, you have search terms where Google gives you lots of non-programming hits (e.g. “iphone video (something)”. So the above method fails, and you have to use the appalling SO search engine.

Then you get this, because the search engine is so poor that it often ignores search-terms, so you have to creatively re-search and experiment to find the results you need:

ARRGGGH!!!

12 thoughts on “StackOverfow: PLEASE fix your search engine

  1. Logan

    Make sure you’re adding “site:stackoverflow.com” to the Google query if you’re getting a lot of non-programming hits.

    Obviously not ideal, compared to StackOverflow’s search engine just being good, but it works in the mean time.

  2. PabloBlamirez

    In chrome it’s even easier, type stackoverflow.com in the address bar and press tab. It then limits the query as mentioned in the comments above. Once it’s in your history, autocomplete kicks in, for me sta + tab gets me a stackoverflow scoped search :-)

  3. PabloBlamirez

    I rescind that last comment. I’d assumed that it google performed my search but having just checked it it looks like it just forwards my search straight on to stackoverflows search engine. (Must check facts before speaking :-) )

    I still like it as a usability thing but if your problem is with their search then yeah, it’ll still suck for you. Personally I don’t find it that bad but I very rarely have to include such generic tags as Iphone per your example

  4. Alastair Pitts

    As you clearly find it enough of a problem, post a bug question on http://meta.stackoverflow.com/.

    This is the best place to discuss issues with SO and there is a significantly higher chance of this issue being seen/getting critical mass to be changed/fixed/improved.

  5. Chris

    I’ve never had a problem with the SO search engine.

    It filters posts by Tags, are you using square bracketed terms to specify a tag in your search? e.g. [ios]

  6. adam Post author

    @Chris – often, people haven’t used the correct tag for the question. That tends to get fixed for popular answers – but not for recent / niche questions.

    Or they’ve ommitted a tag that “should” be there in theory, but they just didn’t think of it at the time.

    So, frequently, you try with the tag, and you don’t get what you need, so you try without it – but with that term as a SEARCH term, and you get the high-value hits you needed. This means that every “Attempted” search becomes 2 attempts. That 6-per-minute becomes an effective 3-per-minute.

    NOTE: 80% of the time, the SO search is “poor, but OK”. Depending on the questions you ask, you may never notice the times when it’s pathologically bad.

  7. adam Post author

    @Alistair

    I’m not sure what to suggest to them, other than “try a different 3rd party search solution”, maybe :)

    good suggestion to visit meta – but in all fairness I’d better prepare a more detailed analysis of the problems if I’m going to post a new report there. None of this is a “new” problem – many people I’ve worked with have complained about it in the past, I’m sure it’s been bugged many times :(.

  8. adam Post author

    @ all … for some reason, site: filter doesn’t always work for me on Google. Likewise cache: only works about one time in 4 – whereas searching for a page title, finding it in the google search results, and hitting the “cached” link always works. Very odd.

  9. Max Battcher

    I tend to rely heavily on site: as well. Particularly with half-dozen “mirrors” of StackOverflow that needlessly clutter google results now. I appreciate that StackOverflow has an open API, but I’m not sure I need so many sites retheming StackOverflow with their own ads to prove it.

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